The storm system that dumped 15 inches of snow in parts of Oklahoma has made its way to Chicago, where it has grounded more than 680 flights Tuesday. Far northern suburbs could see up to 10 inches of snow before dawn, forecasters say.
Areas in Lake and McHenry Counties could see the worst of the storm, anywhere between 6 and 10 inches by daybreak, National Weather Service forecasters said Tuesday night.
Those counties remain under a winter weather warning until 6 a.m., as wet, heavy snow continues to fall across the Chicago area -- as much as an inch per hour in some places.
Other Chicago-area counties in Illinois could see between 4 and 7 inches on the ground by Wednesday morning, the weather service said. Higher amounts could fall in the western and northern suburbs, with lower totals to the south and in northwest Indiana.
A winter weather watch for Cook and DuPage counties has been extended until 6 a.m. But that same watch was called off about 9 p.m. for Will, Kane and Kendall counties.
With wind gusts as high as 35 to 40 mph -- higher near Lake Michigan -- the wind-whipped snow could cause low visibilities and difficult travel conditions, according to the weather service.
NWS meteorologist Matt Friedlein said the incoming system initially had the feel of a March storm, in which near-freezing temperatures made it tricky to predict rain or snow. "It's a very fine line between a major impact and potentially none, with it all being rain," Friedlein said.
But by late afternoon, roughly 6 inches of heavy, wet snow had fallen in northwest suburban Buffalo Grove. About 5 inches of snow had fallen in north suburban Gurnee and northwest suburban McHenry. In the western suburbs, Elburn saw about 4.5 inches as of mid-afternoon, while 3.9 inches of snow had fallen in Winfield.
Additionally, the weather service is warning area residents that what falls will likely be a heavy, wet snow, "sometimes referred to as heart attack snow" and that people should take extra care not to over-exert themselves while shoveling.
More than 510 flights have been cancelled at O'Hare as of Tuesday night, where more than 4 inches of snow had fallen. Roughly 170 flights had been cancelled at Midway. Delays were averaging 60 to 90 minutes at O'Hare, and at least 30 minutes at Midway as of about 8:30 p.m.
The weather also disrupted local commuter rail service when a snow plow got stuck on Metra's Union Pacific West line tracks. Some commuters between Elburn and Chicago were delayed up to 55 minutes until the plow could be removed, Metra's website said.
The CTA was advising commuters to allow extra travel time on buses Tuesday evening because of weather-related traffic. Winter weather conditions can affect the accuracy of CTA Bus Tracker, the transit agency said.
The snow has also led many school districts in the suburbs to cancel after-school activities, and many sent students after a shortened school day.
Chicago Public Schools has cancelled all sporting events for Tuesday, including six state basketball tournament regional games being hosted by CPS schools. All driver's education courses are also cancelled.
The Illinois Tollway will keep all of its 182 snowplows clearning roadways overnight as snow continues to fall, authorities said. Already, authorities have helped more than 49 motorists stranded on roadways during the storm.
"For those who must travel overnight, we urge drivers to be prepared for reduced visibility in particular on east-west roads as winter weather conditions continue," said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur in a statement.
In Chicago, the city Department of Streets & Sanitation has deployed its full feet of 284 plows onto the main routes and Lake Shore Drive. In addition, additional resources were deployed to the Far South Side to ensure access to polling places for the 2nd Congressional District primary.
The trucks will work to first salt and clear the main streets, and then focus efforts on residential streets, a Streets & San statement said.
In noting that most counties in north central Indiana are under the winter weather advisory, the Indiana State Police note that throughout the day, periods of snowfall and possible ice accumulation up to a quarter-inch are being forecast for northern Indiana.
Indiana State Police are advising drivers to exchange insurance and driver information in the event of a crash and to file reports at the nearest ISP district within 10 days, unless medical attention is required.
Lighter snow will likely continue to fall at least through Thursday, forecasters said, as the system stalls over the Great Lakes region. By Thursday, high temperatures in the Chicago area could be in the mid-30s, according to the weather service.
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